ACLU Sues The Government On Its Own Behalf, As A Verizon Customer, Arguing 4th Amendment Violations

from the to-which-the-feds-will-scream-national-security-and-shut-up dept

There have already been a few lawsuits filed about the various NSA surveillance revelations of the last week, but one to watch closely is the lawsuit filed yesterday by the ACLU on its own behalf. The ACLU frequently represents others, but in this case, it notes that it's a Verizon customer, so the mass sucking up of all phone call records on Verizon directly impacts the ACLU.
"This dragnet program is surely one of the largest surveillance efforts ever launched by a democratic government against its own citizens," said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director. "It is the equivalent of requiring every American to file a daily report with the government of every location they visited, every person they talked to on the phone, the time of each call, and the length of every conversation. The program goes far beyond even the permissive limits set by the Patriot Act and represents a gross infringement of the freedom of association and the right to privacy."

The ACLU is a customer of Verizon Business Network Services, which was the recipient of a secret FISA Court order published by The Guardian last week. The order required the company to "turn over on 'an ongoing daily basis' phone call details" such as who calls are placed to and from, and when those calls are made. The lawsuit argues that the government's blanket seizure of and ability to search the ACLU's phone records compromises sensitive information about its work, undermining the organization's ability to engage in legitimate communications with clients, journalists, advocacy partners, and others.
As we had just pointed out, the ACLU lost its case before the Supreme Court on this very subject (the Constitutionality of the FISA Amendments Act) just a few months ago, because the Supreme Court argued that the plaintiffs in that case (Amnesty International) only had speculation that its lawyers had their records monitored. But here, the ACLU rightly points out, it now has the evidence that the ACLU's calls were sucked up in this dragnet.

In other words, this time, there should be no issue of "standing" to deal with.

Of course, the feds will respond the way they normally do in such cases: claiming national security and sovereign immunity. That's what let the feds off the hook on the only other case where evidence of actual monitoring had been leaked, and where the "standing" issue wasn't in dispute. In that case, an appeals court ruled, basically, that the government never actually has to have the Constitutionality of such laws determined in court, because it can claim sovereign immunity to kill off any such lawsuits. If that seems like a crazy result, you'd be correct. That ruling was in the 9th Circuit. This new case is being filed in the Southern District of NY, which is in the Second Circuit. Hopefully, the court rules the other way, setting up a Supreme Court case to resolve the circuit split. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court isn't known for being particularly great at protecting civil liberties lately, so even that may be risky. But, at least there's a chance.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Jun 12th, 2013 @ 7:15am

    I'm afraid that public statements aren't probative.

    You're up against the specificity problem here, which is kind of startling because when the topic is infringing material on file hosts, you say that no one can possibly look at a file and tell whether it's copyrighted. So even though we KNOW that rights of all have been violated, and it's stated in public, if the info isn't specific to a person or entity, it's likely of no value in court.

    So I don't see the case going further now: they've already stymied it for the reasons you list.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2013 @ 7:16am

    Milk it milk milk it milk it. Nobody milks more than Mile!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2013 @ 7:26am

    Re:

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Jun 12th, 2013 @ 7:31am

    Crazy???

    that the government never actually has to have the Constitutionality of such laws determined in court, because it can claim sovereign immunity to kill off any such lawsuits. If that seems like a crazy result, you'd be correct
    Crazy? Try "bat-shit insane"! If I'm reading that correctly it appears that, far from being the foundation of a nation, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are in fact nicely decorated toilet paper for all the force and effect they have.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2013 @ 7:34am

    Re:

    Milking more than a Mile would be overkill anyway.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2013 @ 7:37am

    "In that case, an appeals court ruled, basically, that the government never actually has to have the Constitutionality of such laws determined in court, because it can claim sovereign immunity to kill off any such lawsuits."

    The government doesn't need to show that what it is doing is constitutional because it has sovereign immunity?

    Danger!? Red Alert!?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2013 @ 7:40am

    Re: Crazy???

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Jun 12th, 2013 @ 7:45am

    Re: I'm afraid that public statements aren't probative.

    So, you agree with Mike, you just had to go off on a bullshit tangent about cases that bear no relationship whatsoever because you're that obsessed? OK then.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2013 @ 7:56am

    like everything else underhanded that the government does, as soon as it's exposed, someone is put into the spotlight and is charged with treason. i would like to know how what the person concerned has done can really be classed as treason. what he/she has done is actually make the people aware of what the government itself is doing. they should be thanked and those in government reprimanded at the very least for spying on their own people. how can there be an excuse for this and the associated constant denials and lies? the Constitution is becoming a thing of the past, dismantled by government and courts rather than being used as an example, a starting point, and uprating laws and judgements around it. companies, through the fortunes given to politicians under the umbrella of 'lobbying funds' and 'campaign contributions' have managed to do this. then when something is let out into the open, the government shouts 'foul'. rather than complaining about being caught doing something underhand against the people, would it be better to not do it in the first place?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2013 @ 7:56am

    Re: I'm afraid that public statements aren't probative.

    Not sure if retarded or not.

    There is a specific entity hoovering up all the information by it's own choice. The US Government.

    Megaupload just allowed people to upload whatever whenever. It provided a service, and copywrite holders could issue a DMCA takedown and that link would be removed, as it should be.

    The violator of the rights is the individual doing the uploading. Not the company.

    The violator of our rights is the government, because it's telling companies to give it all this information.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    RHytonen (profile), Jun 12th, 2013 @ 8:00am

    Sheep of history

    This is EXACTLY the way it happened in 1930's Germany and 1920's Italy.

    Political LAZINESS is the most dangerous flaw in a society.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    horse with no name, Jun 12th, 2013 @ 8:03am

    Ding

    filed about the various NSA surveillance revelations

    You got the magic phrase in there again... congrats!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2013 @ 8:05am

    Re: I'm afraid that public statements aren't probative.

    First, what does that have to do with article?
    Second, does that mean you have offered to filter through the quintillion of bits information created daily and let everyone know what is infringing and what isn't? You would be able to recognize what is fair use and what isn't? People are quick to say they know what is infringing and what isn't but when you look at the amount of data created daily, that is like only a drop of water in an ocean amount of data. I would not even know how to start but you seem sure of yourself about how to do it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    Zakida Paul (profile), Jun 12th, 2013 @ 8:13am

    Re: Sheep of history

    "Political LAZINESS is the most dangerous flaw in a society."

    Laziness might be the wrong word here. I was thinking complacency or apathy would be better.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2013 @ 8:15am

    Re: Sheep of history

    to be fair, things didn't end well for those regimes either

    exciting times ahead.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2013 @ 8:38am

    How well did that work for Al Haramain?

    They had a leaked document showing they were spied on, and yet because the government never confirmed the leak, they were able to continue to question standing, (not to mention the whole sovereign immunity bologna.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2013 @ 8:57am

    Re: I'm afraid that public statements aren't probative.

    Are you so blown out of your mind and set in your ways you don't know this isn't relating to copyright?

    I know your handlers would like to think everything is copyright, but it just ain't so.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Vic, Jun 12th, 2013 @ 9:04am

    Oh, come on! The next development is going to be the same as with Wikileaks: although the information is already public and available to everybody, the courts will do as the military did - treat all that info as still Top Secret! The judges will not be allowed to read anything about NSA, or if they did - they are not going to be allowed to use the knowledge, or just taken off the case.

    Case dismissed again!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2013 @ 9:17am

    Re: I'm afraid that public statements aren't probative.

    The difference is that with copyright how the file got there is what the issue hinges on whereas with the subject at hand it doesn't matter and existence alone is evidence of wrongdoing. I know you like to pretend copyright works that way too but it doesn't and cannot.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    howtogetridoffleasez (profile), Jun 12th, 2013 @ 10:41am

    Re: Re: Sheep of history

    Feelings of powerlessness.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2013 @ 11:43am

    A chance..

    yes, it has a chance- like a snowballs chance in hell. Of course I hope I'm wrong.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Jun 12th, 2013 @ 12:10pm

    Re: Re: Crazy???

    Priceless! (Unlike, apparently, the Bill of Rights) +1 internets to you, sir.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    icon
    The Groove Tiger (profile), Jun 12th, 2013 @ 2:12pm

    Re: I'm afraid that public statements aren't probative.

    Mike Y U NO GENERALIZ...

    Uh, I mean

    Mike Y U NO SPECIFICIZE!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    The Groove Tiger (profile), Jun 12th, 2013 @ 2:13pm

    Re:

    Someone's obsessed with Mike's milk...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    AnonCow, Jun 12th, 2013 @ 2:33pm

    "We're not miners. We just dig these tunnels for fun and relaxation. Oftentimes, we find gold while doing so..."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    Matthew Cline (profile), Jun 12th, 2013 @ 4:59pm

    None of the trolls have anything nasty to say about the ACLU? C'mon, you guys are slipping.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    btrussell (profile), Jun 14th, 2013 @ 4:50pm

    Re: NSA surveillance

    It does a body good!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This